'Brown bag' medication reviews as a means of optimizing patients' use of medication and of identifying potential clinical problems

Fam Pract. 1999 Jun;16(3):278-82. doi: 10.1093/fampra/16.3.278.


Background: 'Brown bag' medication reviews carried out by community pharmacists collaborating with GPs have become established, in the USA and elsewhere, as an effective means of helping primary care patients to derive maximum benefit from their medicines, of identifying medication-related problems and of reducing wastage of medicines.

Objective: We aimed to determine whether 'brown bag' medication review could be used successfully in the UK, and particularly whether it represents an efficient and potentially cost-effective means of identifying medication problems.

Method: 'Brown bag' medication reviews were carried out on 205 volunteer patients in 23 pharmacies in south-east London. Pharmacists' interventions to improve patients' knowledge and usage of their medicines were analysed. Potential clinical problems identified by pharmacists were analysed in order to identify the drug groups most likely to cause problems.

Results: Interventions were made in 87% of reviews; interventions to improve patients' knowledge of the purpose and correct usage of their drugs were made in 65% of reviews. In 12% of reviews, problems were identified that could potentially result in a hospital admission, and the potential for an improved outcome for the patient if drug therapy was changed was identified in a further 34% of cases. Beta-blockers, NSAIDs and verapamil were identified as being associated with potential problems of the highest clinical significance. Patients taking psychoactive medication were at greatest risk of a medication-related problem from any cause.

Conclusion: Pharmacists could contribute to patients' welfare and reduce health care costs by carrying out 'brown bag' medication reviews on behalf of GPs.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • London
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Pharmaceutical Services*
  • Pilot Projects